Almost anyone who’s watched daytime television has seen the small claims forum, be it “Judge Judy” or the “The People’s Court”, which are highly sensationalized small claims courts. The small claims forum is best utilized for people whom have rights that require vindication, but whose recovery is not too large.
Small Claim Fees
The fees charged by Small Claims Court can vary depending on the state and county you live in. Generally, the filing fees are fairly small and range anywhere from $30-$300. This amount is directly tied to the amount of damage you are suing for recovery. There can also be other administrative fees that become included depending on the details of your case. Certain fees require amendments, abstracts, applications for order of examination of judgment debtor, mailing fee’s, etc. A successful claim filing and winning your case can require the charged party to reimburse you for these fees in addition to the compensation for damages depending on the judge’s orders.
Court Limits for Small Claims Monetary Awards
Most states have certain monetary limits that determine whether or not a case is appropriately filed in small claims. For example, in California, the recovery limit is set at $7,500. In Small Claims Court, you are not allowed to have a lawyer in court to present your case. Also, your evidence presentation is often limited, along with the amount of time you’re allowed in presenting your side of the argument. Discovery is also limited, state by state, to a certain number of interrogatories, requests for admissions, and depositions allowed. Small claims appeals are possible, and usually require an appeal to the local superior/municipal court for a final appeal process.
If your case is close to or slightly above the small claims limit, it may be wise to lower your demand in some aspects because it would save you costs relating to discovery fees, litigation time and effort, and the cost in hiring a lawyer full time. However, if your case is significantly over the statutory small claims limit, or involving a federal right/law, you would need to file in another forum.
Hiring a Lawyer for Small Claims Appeals
Hiring a lawyer to get you thruough the process is highly recommended. There are various strategic advantages involved in selecting a forum for filing your suit. Having a lawyer can ensure that you are in the correct forum, and that your case gets off on the right foot. Also, there may be cases where the federal forum is better based on recovery, or that the court provides the best relief. By having a lawyer, you will ensure that you will have an advantage in filing your case in the best possible forum.